On a Sunday morning in June 1999 as I was preparing to preach at the Sunday morning service in our church in Houston, I received a vision from the Lord.
We had been in full-time ministry since 1978 when we began serving as missionaries preaching the gospel and making disciples in unreached areas of Indonesia. Following our return to the United States in 1987, we planted and pastored churches in New York City and Houston. But by June 1999 I had made a decision to step down from the pastorate. Although we could plant churches, I discovered that staying on to pastor them in the traditional manner was not my calling. Although my salary at our church was helping us to pay our bills and feed our family of three daughters, I could no longer serve. You could say I was miserable.
But I had no idea what I was going to do after stepping down from the pastorate. For all I knew, I might end up flipping burgers at McDonald’s. Nevertheless I was going to trust the Lord, just as I had done in 1978 when by faith Lucille and I gave up everything we possessed to follow the Lord the ends of the earth to minister in primitive regions of Indonesian Borneo.
During that Sunday morning in June 1999 while in prayer in my living room, my eyes were opened. No longer in my living room, I was walking down the street in a somewhat dilapidated neighborhood. To my left I saw a drab rectangular structure of some sort by the side of the road. It seemed to be made of adobe or concrete and was unpainted and unattractive. There was a single window-like opening in a wall that faced me as I walked toward the structure. Curious, I left the road and walked up to the structure to peek through the opening.
As I stuck my head through the opening, the entire structure turned to dust around me in the blink of an eye and disappeared. There remained no trace of it. Suddenly I was lifted up into the air and whisked away high in the sky. In rapid-fire movie clips as it were I was taken to different places around the world; I could see them from the air high above. Finally I saw what appeared to be heavenly sights that were not of this world. Then the vision ended as abruptly as it had started. A few minutes seemed to have elapsed.
Needless to say I was amazed at what I had seen. In view of my giving up the pastorate in just another week to live by faith, I wanted to know what the Lord had just shown me. And so I prayed to the Lord to reveal to me the meaning of the vision. I then fell into a sleep during which the He gave me a dream. The quality of the dream was identical to that of the vision which I had just seen. In the dream I was riding in a vehicle which I can only describe as similar to a train car. I was the only one in the “train.” There was no locomotive pulling the car and no one operating it. All by itself the car was moving over the ground at very high speed. Nor was it traveling on rails as normal trains do; it did not touch the ground at all. I was simply a helpless passenger on the train looking out the windows in wonder as it powered ahead irresistibly.
The train did not slow down regardless of where it went. As it ascended a steep mountain its speed was not diminished in the slightest. I was terrified when it rounded a sharp curve high up on the mountain but kept going at full speed. Amazingly it stayed on course and did not go flying off the mountain as I thought it surely would.
In the car I was taken to all kinds of distant places around the world. Finally I saw glorious sights which appeared heavenly.
Then I woke up. Though I did not understand the meaning of the vision and the ensuing dream, I felt that the Lord was somehow telling me that He would be with me as I left the pastorate in one more week to live by faith in Him. At that time we had one daughter about to start college at New York University and two younger ones to follow.
The fulfillment of the vision and dream for us personally
The following year in 2000 I was invited to go on a mission trip to North India as one of the team members. I was given an opportunity to preach in open-air evangelistic crusades, and I witnessed the Lord heal the sick miraculously to confirm the message of the gospel. During our nine years as missionaries in Indonesia, the Lord had taught us how to heal the sick as Jesus did in the gospels and as He taught and commanded His disciples (Luke 9:1-2; 10:9). Because of the many miracles which took place through us and the Indonesian disciples we had trained, many who had never heard the gospel before came to saving faith in Christ. On that mission trip to India in 2000 I began to minister to the infirm in the same way, and many were healed.
Then I decided to train the Indian believers, including those who had just received Jesus Christ, how to heal the sick in the same way. And as these believers laid hands on the infirm and exercised their authority in the name of Jesus Christ, people were being healed. I was so excited to be able to give away what the Lord had so freely given to me.
When I returned to the United States from this short mission trip, I knew what the Lord wanted me to do. I was to train ordinary believers to heal the sick and cast out demons as Jesus did and as He taught and commanded His disciples to do when He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God. The ultimate purpose would be the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
Since then we have taught The Elijah Challenge to tens of thousands of believers in over 40 nations, including pastors, evangelists, and missionaries. Some of these have gone on to have very powerful ministries in miraculous healing and are also training others as they themselves were trained. We now witness miraculous healings every time we teach and when we preach the gospel. In predominantly Hindu India, churches have been profoundly impacted and many new churches are being planted in unreached villages following the preaching of the gospel accompanied by miraculous healings performed through trained servants of God. The largest unreached people group in the world is now being penetrated by disciples we have trained. The gospel can be preached much more effectively to the lost when miraculous healings confirm the truth of the gospel to them.
As we train the Lord’s disciples, we are beginning to see the fulfillment of John 14:12 in which Jesus promised that those who believe in Him will do the works that He did, including the miraculous works of healing the sick and casting out demons.
The Lord is graciously fulfilling the vision and dream which He gave to me in June 1999. I now understand their meaning more fully.
The drab, unpainted concrete-like structure which I saw in the vision represented my ministry as a traditional church pastor. As the structure had turned to dust before my eyes, so my ministry as a local pastor had vanished. The Lord has since then taken us to distant nations around the globe to teach and preach. The speeding “train” in my dream was not anchored to the ground on rails and did not touch the ground. Instead it was carried by the Spirit and powered by the Spirit. And that is what the Lord has so graciously done for us since 2000. Wherever we go the enemy has not been able to stand against us and we see victory after victory.
He has graciously fulfilled the many prophecies made over us by His prophets over the years, all of which have been consistent in theme with the vision and the dream He gave me in 1999. One such fulfilled prophesy is:
2 Samuel 7:8 This is what the LORD Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock… 9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you.
We are extremely grateful to the Lord.
The wider meaning of the vision?
But now (March 2012) we are sensing for the first time that the vision and dream might not be only for us personally, but perhaps prophetic in a wider sense.
We believe that the teaching and practices of the Nicolaitans (Revelation 2:6 & 15) which Jesus hates are alive and well to varying degrees in the Church today. This teaching erects a wall of separation between a special, professional class of clergy and the “lay people” who are forever subject to their authority. Only the elite class of clergy are entitled to perform ecclesiastical duties. The Roman Catholic Church of course excelled in the teaching of the Nicolaitans. This in part resulted in the Protestant Reformation over 500 years ago which sought to reinstate the “priesthood of all believers” according Revelation 1:6, 1 Peter 2:5 & 9, and especially John 14:12.
However, the Reformation fell short. Today the Nicolaitan teaching is still firmly embedded in the Church of Jesus Christ. The result is the failure of the Church to fulfill the Great Commission in which Christ commanded us to make disciples of all nations. God’s people are not being discipled to maturity, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13). They are not bearing much fruit—the evidence by which they show themselves to be disciples of Jesus Christ (John 15:8). Most so-called Christians bear no fruit at all for Jesus Christ.
We believe this is the result of the Nicolaitan establishment in the Church today.
Before Christ returns, the Great Commission must be fulfilled. If His return is near, then it may mean that He will seek to destroy the Nicolaitan establishment He hates which has spread like a cancer through much of His Church in varying degrees.
The wider meaning of the structure which turned to dust
At the beginning of the vision which the Lord gave me in June 1999, I saw a drab-looking, unpainted concrete-like structure by the side of the road where I was walking. When I stuck my head in an opening in one of the walls to look inside the structure, it suddenly turned to dust around me and disappeared. Up until now I had interpreted this structure to symbolize my ministry as a local pastor which had turned to dust, setting me free to do what I am now doing around the world. But now I am sensing that the meaning of the structure could be much broader than that.
Could that concrete-like structure also represent the prison—the Nicolaitan establishment—which has kept believers from maturing to become fruitful disciples of Jesus Christ? The victims of the Nicolaitan system also include the many thousands of frustrated pastors around the world who are unfulfilled in their calling to equip God’s people for works of service. Well-meaning and sincere pastors and ministers are just as much victims of the Nicolaitan system as are the believers who have been imprisoned by it. Because of the very nature of the system, the members of their congregation will never mature to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
“Ministers compose the ‘most frustrated profession’ in the nation, according to management consultant Peter Drucker. George Barna says only a third of the clergy believe that their efforts to produce spiritual growth in members will succeed. The incidence of clergy stress and burnout is high, and the average career length for ministers is steadily decreasing.” (Quote from http://www.ccel.us/racing.ch20.html)
Of course, in the Church there are those who have personally benefited from the teaching of the Nicolaitans, and will continue to hold to it. They have power and wealth, and these of course are exhilarating and addictive. These include “anointed” ministers who have already received their reward in this life. These are the ones Christ spoke of who will come in His name, claiming, “I am the anointed one,” and will deceive many (Matthew 24:5). In Greek the word Messiah means “anointed one.”
Is it possible that during these last days the Lord is turning this Nicolaitan prison to dust, setting the Church free to be the Church in order to fulfill the words He spoke two thousand years ago?
John 14:12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
Only then will we fulfill the Great Commission. Only then will Jesus Christ return.
[embeddoc url=”http://www.theelijahchallenge.org/content-directory/uploads/2000/08/Introduction-to-The-Elijah-Challenge-for-the-Web.pptx” viewer=”microsoft”]